is one of those comedies appreciated more by the laugh track (or, if you want to be generous, the studio audience) than by critics.
A multi-camera comedy, Gary Unmarried is conventional on nearly every level and the actors in the solidly cast pilot hit every punchline with a hammer. Convinced as I was that I’d seen the exact same material on both better and worse shows — War at Home, Two and a Half Men and The New Adventures of Old Christine came immediately to mind — I kept waiting for even a chuckle. The canned laugher, though, roared every time star Jay Mohr opened his mouth, but their obnoxious braying suggests they just may be more amused at hearing a teenage boy say the words "tap that."
If you just chuckled at that sort of sitcom kid behavior, then Gary Unmarried may, in fact, be just the show for you.
Very much in the vein of Old Christine, Gary Unmarried is a look at the contemporary post-divorce family. Painting contractor Gary (Mohr) has an ex-wife (Paula Marshall) and two sitcom kids (Ryan Malgarini and Laura Marano). Complicating matters is Gary’s new (younger) girlfriend (Jaime King) and his ex’s new fiance (Ed Begley Jr.), who also happens to have been their marriage counselor. Presumably humor will come from the odd interactions of the mismatched modern clan, which also includes the girlfriend’s son.
As of now, the humor isn’t likely to come from any of the characters created by Ed Yeager.
Gary is a blue-ish collar buffoon, prone to shouting, eye-rolling and mocking his daughter’s liberal political leanings. He’s also technologically clueless, which opens the door for some gags about Second Life which feel two or possibly three years old. Mohr is basically playing the Michael Rapaport or Kevin James or Jim Belushi role, which accentuates none of his strengths as a comic actor. I wish some writers in town would go back to the FOX comedy Action, to figure out where Mohr’s profane, clever, brash energy has gone and how to bring it back.
Like Mohr, both Marshall and King have been very funny when given the right material. Marshall is saddled with a character who is instantly, unbearably unlikable. I get that they have to make the ex-wife the strict, by-the-books parent (in contrast to Gary’s no-rules/no-order dad), but does she have to be a total harpy? I’d imagine subsequent episodes will soften her up a bit. King’s Vanessa, meanwhile, is so bland and nebulous that anything we learn about her — other than her number of children [one] and tattoos [two] — will be a surprise. King’s character is also tough because she’s essentially a one-night stand, but because she’s a cast regular, the writers will have to contrive some sort of chemistry to justify her ongoing presence.
In the original pilot, the only actor who made me laugh was Larry Miller, playing the counselor/fiance. Naturally, the role was recast, but nobody bothered to rewrite any of the surrounding dialogue. That’s why you may hear Gary mocking the character as turtleneck-wearing no-neck, only to have the amply lanky (and neck-y) Begley enter in an open-collared shirt.
Beyond the sitcom-y kids, who are every bit as irksome and unrealistic as you’d expect, the only other apparent cast regular is Al Madrigal as one of Gary’s painters. Between this and the short-lived Welcome to the Captain, Madrigal is carving out a niche as CBS’ token stereotypical Latino. Since CBS isn’t overly prone to employing minority actors in its comedies, I guess he has to take what he can get.
CBS ordered Gary Unmarried after a very speedy turnaround and it’s possible that in addition to being unmarried, Gary is also unbaked. You could call the process of fixing the show Project Gary, but CBS already decided that title stunk. I just thought the pilot stunk, so we may need to meet in the middle somewhere.